The finish line of the 2021 Iowa football season is approaching with one final walkthrough, a few team photos a part of the day’s activities for the Hawkeyes.
Kaevon Merriweather on Kentucky’s balance, Tyler Linderbaum on the chance to become the fourth Iowa team ever to win 11 games and more are part of today’s Hawkeye 10@10.
Delivered at 10 a.m. on weekdays during game week at hawkmania.com, your daily dose of Iowa news includes common bowl success between the Citrus Bowl opponents.
Here is today’s Hawkeye 10@10:
1. Kentucky has won with balance this season, something that is keeping the Iowa defense busy in preparation for Saturday’s Citrus Bowl.
The Hawkeyes are facing an opponent in the noon game that is one of eight power-5 teams to average at least 200 rushing yards and 225 passing yards per game.
“They’re about as balanced as it gets,’’ safety Kaevon Merriweather said. “They can hit you with anything at any point in time. You just have to be ready to be on your Ps and Qs on what you’re doing and what you’re reading.’’
2. Iowa coaches have shown a lot of respect for running back Ivory Kelly-Martin throughout bowl preparations, the result of the senior’s career-long emphasis on team.
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz recalled 2019 when Kelly-Martin was asked to redshirt and accepted the opportunity in a crowded Hawkeye backfield.
“We felt like we had a bunch of good backs and there just weren’t going to be enough carries to go around. We asked him to redshirt and he did that,’’ Ferentz said. “It was one of the most unselfish things I have ever seen as a coach.’’
3. Saturday has remained the focus for a number of Hawkeyes.
Linebacker Jack Campbell said coach Kirk Ferentz has reminded Iowa players that all of the stuff surrounding the bowl is a great part of the experience, but only one memory lasts a lifetime.
“He says we will always remember the outcome of the game. All of the other stuff, that will fade over time,’’ Campbell said.
4. True freshman Connor Colby has made 10 starts at right guard for Iowa this season.
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has been pleased with the weekly progress he has made.
“What he’s done has been right out there for everybody to see. He is out there, and unfortunately sometimes part of growth is failure,’’ Ferentz said. “In fact, it is really the only important part of growth. He had it in a very public arena, his successes, his failures.’’
5. Kentucky quarterback Will Levis has been impressed with what he has seen from running back Chris Rodriguez.
“He’s so unique in his style of running,’’ Levis said. “He’s not necessarily a guy who is always to go make someone miss, but he is always going to fall forward. It’s very rarely you see him get tackled by the first guy who makes contact with him.’’
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6. With a 10-3 record, this year’s Iowa team is a bit of a rarity.
The Hawkeyes are one of only 10 Iowa teams to win 10 games in a season.
Only three previous teams have won 11 games.
“It would mean a lot to get that 11th win,’’ center Tyler Linderbaum said. “Obviously 11-3 sounds a lot better than 10-4. That’s going to be our goal. It doesn’t happen often around here, 11 wins for this program.’’
7. Both Iowa and Kentucky will step into Camping World Stadium for the first time today.
The Hawkeyes started a walkthrough at 9:30 a.m. this morning and the Wildcats are scheduled to do the same at 12:25 p.m.
As is tradition, team bowl photos will be taken as well on the day before the game.
Iowa and Kentucky fans have their first scheduled activity as well with a joint rally at The Pointe Orlando.
The event serves as the Hawkeye Huddle for the bowl and is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. (CST).
8. Both Iowa and Kentucky have beaten five bowl-eligible teams this season.
The Hawkeyes’ 10 wins have come against opponents who put together a combined record of 51-69 this season while the Wildcats’ nine victories have been against opponents with a combined record of 44-63.
9. Kentucky is making its second appearance in the Citrus Bowl in four years.
The Wildcats played in Orlando at the end of the 2018 season, defeating Penn State 27-24.
The win was the first of three straight in bowl games for Kentucky, which currently shares the third-longest streak of postseason success in bowl games with Iowa and Texas A&M.
Only Appalachian State with six straight bowl wins and Texas with four entered the current bowl season with longer active streaks.
10. Once Saturday’s game has ended, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz expects continued strides from players on the Hawkeye roster.
“We will make a lot of strides between now and next season. We are always looking to improve,’’ he said.
“Do I have the answers to what everything is going to look like next fall? No. I wish I did. I’ll know more in January, and then I’ll know more in February. Once we start practicing in March and April, we’ll know a lot more. It’s an ongoing process.’’